Every luni-solar system, be it Hebrew, Greek or Babylonian, realises that the lunar year needs adjustment about every third year. Therefore it is not by coincidence that the Hebrew heptad of years was divided in half and called, a ‘time, times and half a time.’ This term is mentioned in the Bible often enough, but usually in a ‘prophetic’ setting. That aspect is beyond the scope of this article, so we shall limit our discussion of the division of the week to its function in the calendar.
The division occurred; it seems, on Israel’s all-important festival, the Day of Atonement. The D.of A. was the 10th of the seventh month, but it should not be supposed an arbitrary date of religious significance only. When we count 3½ years from the beginning of a Sabbatical cycle, it comes to a total of 1278 days to the start of the D.of A. in the middle year. Now, this is interesting, because the number of days in 3½ solar years is the same; so the 10th of Tishri must have been a marker showing where the lunar calendar intersects with the solar.
That is not all. When we count from the end of the Day of Atonement 1260 days, it resets itself, as mentioned before, to the start of the next Sabbatical cycle. So, the special festival in the middle year is actually a ‘fulcrum’ between two significant counts. Each ‘time, times and half a time’ had an additional month added to the ‘base’ 42 months, making 43 lunar months on both sides – a total of 86 lunar months altogether. Please examine the diagram taking note that the Day of Atonement stands independently between the two counts.
Old Testament scripture alludes to the division of the week by Daniel’s term, ‘midst of the week’ although, in this case, it referred loosely to the sacred festival period of the middle year. It also mentions an extra leap month, expanding the 1260 days to 1290 days. By understanding how the number of days count to New Year’s Day, we are provided with part of the answer to what the prophet meant when he said: “From the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.” (Daniel 12:11) 1290 days to what? The sentence doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, and yet the answer is what the reader is looking for! However, Daniel would have expected his original readers to have known that he meant from the Day of Atonement to New Year’s Day.
Indeed, when we follow the moon over extended periods, we find the ancient Sabbatical cycle alternating between 86 and 87 months until seven ‘weeks of years’ completed the Jubilee of forty-nine years. In the case of the alternate 87 months, the equation would show a ‘time, times and half a time’ of 1278 days on one side, and 1290 days on the other. In other words, a total of three months were added in those cases.
I have checked this model over hundreds of years, and come to the conclusion that by combining the formula with actual sightings of New Moon, the calendar would have been virtually mistake-proof. For a recent example, let us take the 1st of Nisan, 2000 AD and add 1278 days. It comes to the 10th of Tishri 2003 AD. If we count this hypothetical ‘day of Atonement’ then add another 1260 days, it returns to the 1st of Nisan, 2007 AD. The system is no longer in use of course, but it works just as well today as it did in biblical times! For examples of actual biblical dates, please see my academic paper here: